Tuesday , Apr , 22 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

Toronto Raptors Fall 104-103 to Orlando Magic, But How Was it Even That Close?

Toronto Raptors Fall 104-103 to Orlando Magic, But How Was it Even That Close?

Sure the Raptors lost 104-103 tonight, going down 2-0 in their series with the Magic.  Sure, Chris Bosh kind of choked thrice in the final 45 seconds (not to mention most of stinking most of the second half).  But really the more amazing thing to me is how the Raptors are still in this series at all.

Let’s take a look at the production out of Toronto’s starters beyond Bosh (29 points- only 6 in second half and 10 rebounds): Bargnani (9 points, 1 rebound), Parker (38 minutes, 0 points, 0-for-4 shooting), Ford (6 points, 1-for-8 shooting, 4 TOs), and Nesterovic (5 minutes, 2 points).

That is absolutely horrible production from four of your five starters and just another reason why even though the Raptors lost again tonight, they can still hang their heads high looking forward to Thursday night’s Game 3 in Toronto.  I mean, Anthony Parker and Rasho Nesterovic combined for 40 points in Game 1, tonight they combined for 2 measly points, I know Rasho was benched, but Parker?  He was the leading scorer with 24 points in Game 1 and he only gets off four shots in Game 2?  If he makes a single basket tonight, guess what, 1-1 series.  I mean the Toronto bench outscored their starters 57-46 tonight, and this is a bench that is as inconsistent and streaky as the Pistons Game 1 play.

Tonight also harkened back to Game 1, as the Raptors again trailed big in the first quarter, this time by as much as 18 points.  Let’s take a further look back at Game 1, where the Magic shot 80% from the field in the game’s first 16 minutes.

I mean, Toronto has been down by 18+ points in the first quarter of both games and T.J. Ford to go along with Andrea Bargnani have played like crap, and this to go along with all the above things mentioned has Toronto down 0-2, sure, but they’ve lost these two games by a combined 15 points, on the road no less, essentially letting Game 2 slip out of their hands with Bosh’s final possession struggles.

Looking at the stats, you’d be thinking that this series was absolutely over and that Toronto had been blown out twice and thoroughly outplayed, but that isn’t the case.  Sure, Game 1 was a little harsher, but they cut that deficit down to 7 points in the fourth quarter, while in they were in Game 2 for three quarters with a number of chances to close it out but they couldn’t.        

The Raptors, despite their very poor play, are still right in the thick of this series, but they absolutely must avoid a slow start at home for Game 3, something they haven’t been able to do in Orlando.  The Magic aren’t playoff tested, and sure they’re up 2-0, but a hostile road environment is a completely different animal then your home building.  But that crowd will be silenced immediately if the Raptors start off slow again, virtually eliminating their home court advantage.

One other thought, and that is, please, please Sam Mitchell, start Calderon over Ford, Ford has been absolutely terrible in both games so far, and while Calderon was pretty much equally bad in Game 1 he stepped it up big time in the fourth quarter tonight, hitting two clutch three-pointers and scoring 10 of his final 18 points in the final quarter.  Ford cannot handle the bigger, stronger Jameer Nelson on him and the Magic have exploited it, with Nelson scoring 18 points in Game 2 after an even better Game 1.

Other than that, please use Rasho more than five minutes, he was a big part of the stretch run for the Raptors and is really the only big man we have who can body Dwight Howard down low.  Also, the Raptors did a very nice job tonight on Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu overall, as even though Turkoglu got them in the final minute the two combed to shoot 11-for-36 from the floor, including 0-for-13 from the three-point line.

Game 3 is Thursday night and should be very interesting, and Toronto must come out of the game strong to get the crowd into the game and put the pressure on the inexperienced Orlando team, just as the Magic did to the Raptors in Orlando.

Don’t forget, to read more about the game flow please visit the Raptors’ Den at MVN.com: http://www.mvn.com/nba-raptors/

[image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aho_1987/]